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31 Mar 2020

How To Improve Associate Satisfaction and Improve Firm Culture

Today’s best law firms understand the benefits of having a fluid and adaptable legal culture. Attorneys are intelligent and motivated individuals, and law firms must ensure that they maintain a suitable environment for lawyers from different generations, diverse backgrounds, and various perspectives, beliefs and values.

To attract the most talented legal professionals, a firm needs to foster a positive work environment. This includes maintaining respect for company core values and an environment that encourages growth. Often, this means promoting a healthy work-life balance for all employees. The return on improving corporate culture is clear: greater productivity, better employee retention, increased creative investment and happier clients.

How Do You Create A Positive Corporate Culture At Your Law Firm?

Corporate cultures run a gamut, and there is no single right way to build a positive environment but there are several types of corporate culture. Maybe your firm encourages wellness by stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks or providing unlimited free (and high quality!) coffee, tea, kombucha, sparkling water or other beverages. Perhaps your company fosters socialization between coworkers by putting a communal puzzle in the break room or hosting a weekly happy hour. Maybe your firm encourages involvement in pro bono cases or claims that benefit your local community. Or perhaps your firm needs a more in-depth solution, like improved communication and transparency policies that provide a safe and welcoming environment for constructive feedback on practices and management.

The most important first step to building a better corporate culture is to acknowledge that change needs to occur. Your acknowledgment and willingness to identify problems will be inspiring, and that alone is a great start to build team morale. From there, being open to making the necessary changes to accomplish a better work environment becomes key. Here on some tips on helping transition your corporate culture from good to great:

  1. Be Open to Feedback
    Creating a positive corporate culture at your law firm requires listening to your colleagues’ comments, concerns, and complaints and taking tangible action to address them. However, employees may be hesitant to report any meaningful constructive criticism. Consider creating anonymous feedback sheets to encourage honest and open communication.

  2. Create Micro Firm Committees
    For each improvement your firm wants to make, organize a committee led or facilitated by the employees most impacted. These tasks should not be overwhelming, but productive and beneficial for all. Perhaps you create a committee that rallies the firm around celebrating victories, holidays and birthdays. Ask your employees if they would be interested in organizing recreational activities, such as kickball or frisbee tournaments. Have another team that plans staff retreats and meetings.

    On a more serious note, consider organizing a team that facilitates justice, equity, diversity and inclusion workshops for the firm. Or, create a team that offers more informal human resources support that can address and find solutions to interpersonal problems in the office informally before they become a larger issue. As a leader, this your opportunity to step away from the helm and get creative with your administrative side.

  3. Show Value
    Often, attorneys chose a legal career because they want to make a valuable impact on their communities and the world. Help your employees fulfill their goals by creating a space for them to flourish and grow within your firm. With your support, they will be incentivized to invest in your firm. Showing value also creates a sense of loyalty that will ensure success for everyone. 

How Can A Law Firm Improve Its Culture?

A positive corporate culture fosters success for both your bottom line and your employees’ well-being. But how can a partner or principal improve the culture of their firm? Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Evaluate Areas of Need
    Think about what you need to make an ideal firm culture. Define clear characteristics and ask yourself and your partners if your firm is achieving those traits. Also, ask your employees what their ideal firm culture would consist of and take their feedback to heart.

  2. Implement New Practices
    Get more aligned to your organization’s company culture goals by being open to adjustments and changes within your work community. Whether that means changing the physical orientation of the office or providing human and financial resources to support necessary changes, implementation demands action.

  3. Provide Unconditional Support
    As a firm leader, you are a role model — which means you play a big part in shaping your firm’s legal culture. Show your constant support for these newly implemented practices and your team will follow. The impression you create will be contagious, and your employees will feel heard, appreciated and motivated.

Your Team Needs Your Insight

Revolutionizing the norm at your firm will take time. Remember that positive change starts at the top, so if the leaders at your firm are clear and supportive of your firm’s new goals, then it will be easier to make changes that improve culture, retain your highly skilled legal professionals and reduce burnout.